Sunday, June 29, 2014


There is a really interesting and valuable book by Stig Avall Severinsen entitled breatheology, the art of conscious breathing.

Thanks to Alex Silver of the Livermore Aquacowboys for giving us this book. We won’t attempt to give you a synopsis here but there are easy to understand exercises and great tips on the art of breathing to help all athletes in their quest for better performances.
We had two observations this weekend at a development meet for senior swimmers both related to breathing.
First up…Yaroslav said during his 200 meter fly that he focused on exhaling. Doing so, he said, gave him more relaxation which enabled him to have a strong last 50. Hmmm….it seems to us that this makes perfect sense. So often a swimmer or any person attempting to perform at a high level in any discipline focuses on getting a good inhale. However, the quality and quantity of the inhale is clearly dependent upon the amount of room available. This in turn is dependent upon the exhale. Can you remember back in school, giving an oral book report or speech to the class and part way through realizing that you are “out of air”? That happens because you forget to exhale so when you inhale you don’t have enough capacity to get a full inhalation.
So tomorrow, in workout, practice exhaling and see what happens. If it helps, thank Yaroslav. If it doesn’t help, blame your parents…they provided the gene pool.
Secondly, while watching Graham do a pace 50 backstroke in preparation for his 200 meter back we noticed that he was pursing his lips during the breathing process. It looked like he was forcing the exhale. We asked him to relax his facial muscles and simply breathe easily. Relaxing his lips relaxed his jaw which eased a certain amount of tension out of his neck. He felt more relaxed and swam a touch faster. In his 200 back he was able to use this new awareness and swim more smoothly. It really showed up later in the race as he was able to continue his effort and tempo where before he would tend to fade away a little bit at the end.
Anytime you can breathe while staying relaxed in your face, jaw and neck you help yourself tremendously.
Air is a wonderful commodity. Learn how to savor it and use it to your advantage. See you poolside soon!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Few Observations

We were at the Santa Clara Grand Prix this weekend. In addition to all the fine racing there was an unofficial “clinic” going on simultaneously where we got to watch some of the best in our sport. They were there in a setting that was perhaps much like watching an NFL team in a scrimmage. The racing did count but there wasn’t a ton of pressure to perform for a specific reason, such as Nationals where the World Championship team was being selected…that happens in something like 7 weeks. The atmosphere at that meet will certainly be more “supercharged”.
Back to our NFL analogy; the coaches were watching for specific things like race strategy and technical corrections athletes were making…not so much interested in times being recorded. And athletes were watching each other to gauge their position and progress relative to their main competitors.
This is some of what we observed.
Kick power is even more important than we thought it previously was. In prelims, Michael Phelps powered away from the field in his heat on the 2nd 50 riding his legs all the way home to the touchpad. It was a remarkable show of leg power…out in 24 + back in 25 something…legs all the way home while simultaneously holding onto what appeared to be every drop of water in the pool.
Have a race plan. In the heats of the 100 fly, Tom Shields dove in and broke out a ½ stroke ahead of Justin Lynch at the 15 meter mark. He swam strongly the 1st 50 touching just ahead of Lynch. He came off the wall like a rocket ship, dolphin kicking to exactly the 15 meter mark. He then swam about 22 meters breathing mostly every stroke. The last 12 meters were no breath, beautiful body line, every bit of pull/kick power moving him precisely forward. Justin is a magnificent flyer. He finished a body length back.
Stroke tempos vary from swimmer to swimmer at the elite level. But each swimmer has found that “sweet spot” for them and seem very comfortable racing at their preferred rate not trying to imitate someone else’s. A lot of trial and error over time has gone into this awareness but the best seem to know exactly what works for them.
Breathing patterns vary a little bit as well. Two things stood out very clearly. In freestyle the fastest breathe low in the water turning their head minimally. In butterfly the fastest have very little disturbance to their body line when they breathe.
And finally, when an athlete is not pleased with her swim, she doesn’t cry – at least not where anyone can see her. When a guy is not pleased he isn’t throwing cap and goggles, having a mini tantrum. It is more of “I didn’t execute my plan so next time I better do a more complete job of making it happen” vs. “why did I do so poorly; please someone, anyone give me some sympathy”.
See you at the next “clinic”.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Real Impact of Fast Suits

We spent a very interesting weekend in Roseville at the Summer Sanders Senior meet. This is a trials and finals meet early in the long course season. We say “early” since our high school season ended in mid-May. California high school swimmers have the shortest long course season in the entire world…maybe 7 to 9 weeks before the end of season shave meet.
We had our team race in the prelims in regular training suits and if they swam fast enough to get a finals swim they could then “suit up”. And those that did so swam VERY fast in the evening.
On the third and final day, Sunday, we let all who wanted to do so, put on their suits for the prelims so they could actually have a shot at a final swim. Most took us up on the opportunity. Several didn’t and actually made the top 27 (3 finals in a 9 lane pool). Those that did suit up swam fast enough to get a second swim.
In the finals of the 100 free we had lights out races and times from every single swimmer – 4 girls and 5 guys. Of course there were lots of smiles and rightfully so. They competed well and swam very fast. We took no rest for this meet and yet swam super. How did that happen, we ask ourselves?
Certainly the suits make a more streamlined, compact body. But there is no shave and no rest, so how come the times drop dramatically? It seems to us that the suit gives the swimmer “permission” to swim fast. They have a higher level of “positive expectation” that the result will be a “good” one so they “go for it”.
A Ha…a positive expectation leads to an anticipated (dare we say “guaranteed”) positive outcome (time). If this is true…and we submit that if not totally true it is at the very least mostly true…then the real question is: “How do we get the swimmer to “put on the suit” every darn time they race?” without putting on the actual suit?
Tonight in workout we posed this question and asked them to imagine they had a suit on when we did a set of fast 50’s. We had some fast swims and we could see a few brains working on the concept…and that is all we really ask. Work on the concept, daily, weekly, monthly until you figure it out.
When you figure it out, you will be light years ahead of the rest of the population.
In our opinion…

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Converation

We were having a conversation with our training group last week about how to get where they want to go. We had talked two weeks ago with them using the lines from John Leonard’s recent article about the Real Limits on kids in swimming; “A swimmer with quality technique has NO limits to their ultimate performance. A swimmer with under-developed technique…has nothing BUT limits.”

This resonated with us since our collective coaching philosophy revolves around swimming well. We love fast swimming; be certain about that. But every time we see REALLY fast swimming, from our gang or those on other teams, we see technique carrying the day.

So we have been asking them to stay focused in workouts on their technique. We encourage them to be better swimmers at the end of workout than they were at the beginning (see a recent blog about the 1% improvement from the BritishNational Cycling Team). We even have them do swims where all they do is focus on one particular item. We do these swims as minutes rather than intervals/distances. 

For example, do a 10 minute swim where all you do is breath below the surface of the water. We start our stop watch and blow a whistle 10 minutes later. One thing we are figuring out – thanks to The Rise of Superman book – is that all athletes in the flow are totally present. This is one of the ways we are working on it.

But we digress…so in this conversation this week with our training group we said to them that there are only two things, in our opinion, that we have total control over:

We control our attitude.

We control our reaction to how we deal with the things that happen to us.

All of the rest of the stuff of life we have little or no control over. So we asked them to consider staying on point; work your attitude and work how you handle things that go on around you or to you.

Easier said than done but it is a really good way to stay on point in one’s quest for greatness and success. Our opinion is that as coaches this is what we are doing; preparing people, young and old alike, for greatness and success.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Tale of Two Swimmers

We just returned from our 2nd long course meet of the season. For many it was actually their first since most high schoolers were involved in their dual meet season 6 weeks ago. It is always interesting to watch them as they acclimate to a longer pool. Some seem to really thrive in the longer runway for their jets while others are gasping for the walls.

As we watched the scene unfold it became aware to us that there are two distinct types of swimmers. This is nothing new but perhaps it is the long course that really exposes the two styles. We remember the truism from Terry Stoddard that long course swimming is the “truth serum” of our sport.

Sarah trains so well. She is all over the workouts. She attacks each set with purpose. She is a consistent leader among the “high effort” output kids on the team. When she races she lacks the passion exhibited in her training.

Tim races like a young man possessed. He attacks each event with a fierce passion. He will never give anything less than his best effort from the start of the race until the touchpad. We can never seem to get him very interested in training in a similar fashion.

When we are at the meet we ask Sarah, “Will you race like you train?” To Tim we say, “When will you train like you race?”

This is a coach’s frustration. We see this conundrum so clearly. Once we can get all swimmers on our team to train like they race AND race like they train…well then I guess we will have a waiting list for our team a mile long.

Perhaps this is merely a long winded way of saying the age old truism; “What you put in on a daily basis determines what is available to you at the meet.”

Either way, it is what we saw this weekend.

But it is not all that we saw. Miki was suffering from a monster headache that got worse as the day went on. Before her final event we asked her, “If it was two summers from now at Olympic Trials what would you do?” She said, “I’d go for it.”

Then before she went to the blocks she came by and said, “I’m going to Danny Way it.” And she did. Click play below to see what she meant.